May 17, 2019

An how!

Julia Heller’s Boy Friends Book, June 1932

An how! David’s sister is in town for his birthday, and we spent the first night she was here looking at bunch of cool library stuff!

One of the best things we found was from the “North American Women’s Letters and Diaries” collection called the Julia Heller Boy Friends Book. This school girl from Chambersburg PA catalogued all the boys she kissed or dated (or “went around with”), from about 1930-1935. She notes which ones are taller than her, which ones have bicycles, and which ones she met at a summer camp somewhere called Social Island. She also grouped them according to “Boys I liked better than others” and “Boys I liked best of all.”

Since most of us don’t have access to the book, here’s a blog post that has some info about it. I also wanted to share a couple amazing excerpts:

  1. “Dresses cute & man can he laugh cute he has the sweetest laugh could I kiss him an how any time at all baby I am here for you! Just you! He has an adorable mother that’s the way he gets his cuteness.” (That’s what the handwriting in today’s blog image says.)
  2. “Boy, it took me three whole years to get him but when I got him I got him…Oh he is my sweet potato. Plus a dear sweet so –and so. Gee, just a handsome brute from Greenvillage. Oh my apple dumplin. He really is cuter than any other boy I ever liked or ever wish to like…Can he neck a girl oh my…He is made out of sweet sugar & still more sugar. He is absolutely too divine & gorgeous for words. And when he dresses in that brown suit & brown tie oh do we go to town. An how!” (This is the man she ultimately marries!)

I had a crush diary in middle school and I’m glad my girl Julia did too. Research is amazing, archives are wonderful, and it sucks that so much stuff is behind a paywall (but it’s awesome to have a sister-in-law with the ACCESS). Here’s some other stuff I read this week:

  1. Don’t Let People Enjoy Things, Kate Wagner for the Baffler. “First, this infantile obsession with having an “experience” with a piece of entertainment—centered, as it is, around keeping the brain a blank slate free of spoilers, expectations, and criticism—is unrealistic in that these media franchises are constantly being discussed in every medium imaginable. It’s also strange to believe that such information could ruin a specific piece of media…Simple escapism and entertainment value is not the aim of art, though it might well be the goal of enormous media conglomerates.” The influence that fandom has on the discourse around a piece of media is so weird; think of petitions trying to get cancelled shows back on the air, or the rabid misogyny toward a certain female Skywalker… The very idea of a fandom (fan + kingdom) implies citizenship and a blind allegiance that does not always respond well to criticism. But critics don’t want to “ruin” a show for the people who care about it; the critic probably cares too. For example, fantasy as a genre means a lot to me. I won’t get into my bugaboos about Game of Thrones, but it’s tough that there’s a huge cultural moment happening around “my genre” that I can have no entry to because my objections overrule the enjoyment I’d find in this show. To pile “If you complain about this show we all like, then you’re a wet blanket and another b-word” on top of that, it’s just frustrating. The best art is made better by the tempering force of critique.
  2. Millions are using this Japanese-inspired technique to radically improve their presentations, CNBC. Basically the concept for an engaging presentation with this PechaKucha method is 20 slides and only 20 seconds on each slide. It’s meant to pare down “excess and lead to shorter, more creative and highly polished presentations.” I have been doing more public speaking this year and this is seriously challenging, but maybe also inspiring. I might revisit an old presentation to try out this method with info I’m familiar with. Here’s the part I think I will have the hardest time doing: “Keep text to a minimum and give every image or graphic a discernible “holy mackerel” point that’s easy to digest.” Every image has to have a point? But what about memes and stupid gifs?? Well, I do want to give memorable presentations and respect my audience’s time. What’s your favorite public speaking tip?
  3. The Grind Won’t Save Us, But Student Debt Forgiveness Might, Elle. “Everywhere you look, the message is clear: If you can’t pay off your debt, you’re just not grinding hard enough.” This article has a lot of short lines that resonated with me. Here’s another about when people compliment you for your 3-job hustle: “But when you’re working just to keep your head above water, a compliment about work ethic is easy to brush off because what the hell else are you supposed to do? Die?” The author’s personal experience is compelling support for a radical debt-forgiveness measure, in my opinion. She acknowledges that the debt relief plan sounds like a handout, but that there is common sense in “wiping the slate clean and enacting regulation to prevent [the student debt crisis] from happening again.” Student debt relief and other areas of wealth inequality are a super personal political priority to me!
  4. Why Rachel Held Evans Meant So Much To So Many, Buzzfeed News. I met her once at a conference where she spoke. It was part of her book tour for The Year of Biblical Womanhood which was a book that at the time I didn’t think I’d like — it sounded too gamely humorous, one of those “challenge” books. But she was such a captivating speaker. This tiny conference was intimate, so I could just walk right up to her among other creative women and say, “My family are Mennonites,” and she said, “The women I met in Mennonite communities taught me a lot. I love the way they think globally and love peace.” And she looked into my face. A few years later, after graduating and not really feeling like I could go to church for a while, I read Searching for Sunday and wept with recognition of myself in her questions. A quote in this article sums up how I feel about her legacy: “Rachel, you didn’t just *try* to include us—you did it beautifully. You embraced us—PoC, women, LGBTQ people. You elevated us—doubters and seekers. You amplified us. You defended us. You advocated for us. You listened to us. You loved us. My heart is broken.” I am so grateful to her, glad to think she is in heaven, but also frustrated and sad because I don’t think she was done writing. I think she had more stories to tell and more insights to share and it just plain sucks that she is gone.
  5. Just Give it 7 Seconds, Jezebel. “Do not, under any circumstances, think about any interaction you’ve had with another human being for longer than seven seconds. So you got weird at your office Christmas party. Give it a full seven seconds, and release it. Yeah, you did make a weird noise with your mouth when you were alone with someone in the kitchen, and? Laugh about it to yourself for exactly seven seconds and then never think about it again. Anything longer is too long.” This is good advice and also hilariously put: “You just put your little head down and barrel through life like the maddening idiot you are! You simply do not have time to consider anything you’ve ever said longer than seven seconds.” I love this article start to finish!

Bonus feature:

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